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September 23, 2019

Extinguish habit to preserve health, set example for youth

If I have to tell you about the dire effects of smoking, I can wax lyrical about them. It is simple, because I started smoking when I was 10. At that time, I had no knowledge of the difference between good and evil. When I started to write, I could not finish a single article without smoking a big cheroot. I would have barely written a few lines or sentences before taking several puffs.
For the individual, smoking fills a lot of empty moments. It acts as a stress reliever. It gives smokers something to do with their hands and provides satisfaction. Some maintain that cigarette smoke itself provides visual stimulation and may act as a comforting smokescreen.
These reasons occupy young men and they fall prey to tobacco. One of the reasons I started smoking was that I saw adults doing it. I thought it was a “grown-up” thing to do. So I began to smoke in order to impress my friends.
To be frank, I did not really believe tobacco would do me any harm. I was not impressed when adults warned me about the dangers of smoking. My argument at that time was that ‘If smoking is dangerous, why do so many adults do it?’
However, most people come to know that this habit causes ill health. It has been established that smoking increases the risk of deadly illnesses such as lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. Despite knowing these facts, we find it hard to give up the bad habit.
In the 21st century we are fully aware of the dangers of smoking. The nicotine inhaled from cigarettes makes the heart beat faster, and makes the arteries contract. This can lead to blockages in the arteries, particularly in the legs. We need not teach the fishes to swim. However, the number of smokers has increased year by year. (Because of a lack of surveys conducted by ministries or authorities concerned, we are not able to get the exact figures of smokers).
Smoking is widespread. And this habit is within easy reach for every person. This is why youths start the habit at first as a fashion and soon become addicted. The Ministry of Health has been implementing tobacco control activities. School-based tobacco control activities are being conducted in coordination with the Ministry of Education.
Myanmar has been participating in the Global Tobacco Surveillance System and has conducted Global Youth Tobacco Surveys (GYTS) in 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2011 and the Global School Personnel Surveys (GSPS) in 2004 and 2007.
Furthermore, The Control of Smoking and Consumption of Tobacco Product Law was adopted in 2006 under the State Peace and Development Council Law. When the Tobacco Control Law came into force, tobacco advertisements in all forms were strictly prohibited.
However, the number of young smokers, many of them only children, is still on the increase. We can see so many placards saying: “Stop smoking,” “Tobacco kills,” “Tobacco smoke can harm your children” and so on. In almost every government office, you may see a warning saying, “No smoking area, penalties apply.” But you can still see some young men smoking with gusto under the warning placard.
New York City took the first step in outlawing sales of cigarettes to anyone under age 21, in an effort to reduce smoking among the age group in which most smokers took up the habit. The bill, which was introduced by the City Council and had the backing of the Mayor, would make New York City would make it illegal to sell cigarettes to people under 21. (At that the legal age was 18.)
It is worth reading the remarks made by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who said, “By delaying our city’s children and young adults access to lethal tobacco products, we’re decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking, and thus creating a healthier city.”
Dr Prabhat Jha, who was the head of the Centre for Global Health Research at St Michael’s Hospital in Canada, advised smokers to quit before age 40 and greatly reduce their risk of premature death. According to the doctor, a study found smokers who quit when they were young adults significantly reduced their risk of dying sooner.
Quitting smoking before age 40, and preferably well before 40, gives back almost all of the years potentially lost due to continued smoking.
Dr. Jha’s team obtained smoking and smoking cessation histories from more than 200,000 people who were interviewed between 1997 and 2004 in the US National Health Interview survey, and related the data to the causes of deaths that occurred by the end of 2006. They found people who quit smoking between age 35 and 44 gained about nine years and those who quit between ages 45-54 and 55-64 gained six and four years of life, respectively. (Such a survey should be an example to us all including authorities, ministries ad civil organizations concerned.)
Smoking is at its last gasp in advanced countries with the highest incomes and best health services. Unfortunately, many people in developing countries will go on smoking till death by suffocation, heart attack or cancer.
World No Tobacco Day has come around once again on May 31. The day has been designated by the World Health Organization to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and to advocate for strategies to reduce tobacco use.
Educative talks on dangers of tobacco will be broadcast on radio and television and will be held in public places. However, when World No Tobacco Day is over, the smokers will defend the status quo.
May I ask you a question? Can you proudly say that you have given up smoking?
I can proudly say that I successfully stopped torturing my lungs and my heart a decade ago.
(This article is dedicated to my fellow smoker writers who will read my articles while they are smoking.)

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